On International Women’s Day – Defend Our Line in the Sand

It has been a hard week for women, a hard day. A hard month, a hard year, a hard lifetime. I could write this sentence at any moment in history and it would have been true. Even on the weeks and days when victories are won, the backlash is the shadow lurking behind them.

I spoke to someone recently about why I do the work I do. Why, she asked, did I think I’d chosen a career where the chance of success – of women being full free and equal in my lifetime – was so small?

I’m not a person who self-sabotages, and I’m not a masochist either, so the question gave me pause, and I took that pause to try and find the thing in me that makes me believe in the value of women’s activism and in broader gender activism today.

And it is this: I am defending the line in the sand that others before me have drawn, and I will never, ever, let that line be washed away. We have made progress, that progress was hard won, and we must defend it.

The beauty is – I’m not alone. Each day thousands of people around the world wake up and choose to speak our truth, to write our stories, to go to court in the name of justice, to be there for and with survivors of violence and to believe their stories, to demand reproductive justice, to rally against legislative inequality, to demand better representation in government, to demand safe transport and better pay, to demand the rights to our lives and homes and land — each day we do this and we dig that line deeper. We dig our heels in and we defend. We take steps forward and we advance in the name of justice and what we know to be right. Each day we draw strength from one another, and are grateful for the others who are with us. We draw this line in the sand around the world, and we will never, ever let this line be washed away.

This doesn’t mean that this is easy. It is hard to fight every day. It is very, very hard. And it is alienating sometimes. It can lead you to some dark places and make you doubt your sanity and make you feel different and alone and afraid. It can make you angry, so angry you explode like a bomb. It has cost hundreds of human rights defenders their lives. It can make you sad, so sad you can’t enjoy the things you used to enjoy anymore. It can give you headaches and back pain and body aches. It is not easy.

The patriarchal system forms the bricks of our culture, and the world continues to build systems and institutions with these bricks. This system of inequality so pervasive that at times it will try to convince you that the line is isn’t worth defending, that you’ve won already. Complacency is the threat we face. The misogynists are easy (more often than not) to spot, outright sexism and hatred – even easier. But the idea that we are fine now, that we can pack up and go home because of the the law will be enough, that idea is dangerous. It is not time to rest on our laurels.

The situation today demands constant vigilance. It demands courage. It requires that you find allies, and friends, and loved ones who will support you on those hard days. It requires self-awareness and self-care and paying attention to the signs that your body and heart give you that say that this might be a day for rest. It requires love and hope and passion.

For you, who is reading this today and feeling like International Women’s Day tomorrow is nothing more than ceremony. It isn’t. It is our legal line in the sand. It is our rallying point. It is our call to do more, to advance further, to remain aware, and to be brave.

As if it is a new year I wish for you, reading this now, a year of bravery and certainty that you are not alone. We are here with you, and we will never, ever give up.

See you at the line, today and always.

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2019 Creations

We’re in the early days of a new year, and so there are still many messages around about being a new you and how to set goals so you can adjust the parts of your life that aren’t working as well as you think they should.

This type of message – FIX YOURSELF IN ONE YEAR OR LESS – can be a real mood dampener because it forces you to focus on what you don’t like. Way to make you want to reach for a croissant or lie in bed watching a whole series of Sex Education in a weekend. What? Who did that? (No seriously, go watch it).

Instead, this year I’m trying to take the advice I got from a very rad podcast I listen to called Kombucha and Colour. They suggest setting an intention as a guide to your year – i.e. how you want to feel / what you want to live like. This seems way easier than setting a resolution or a goal because it provides a bit more spaciousness for mistakes.

This year I’ve set the intention to CREATE.

Create writing. Create time and space for rest and for exercise and being outside. Create art. Create yummy food. Create energy in my relationships. Create new work. Create creations (whatever those are! the mystery! the intrigue!)

It’s big enough to fit all my hopes and dreams into, and small enough that I can’t judge myself. Loving it.

I’ve started out the year on creating time for writing, especially for new writing. I’m not sure how other writers feel but for me the writing is way more fun than the editing and refining process. The act of putting ink on a page and watching words come out of your own mind is thrilling. So I’ve:

  • Finished an edit on my novel and sent it off to the publishers for feedback (hold thumbs and cross your fingers and toes please).
  • Signed up to a monthly writing workshop with Maire Fisher and Chantal Stewart.
  • Signed up to a memoir writing course next week with the Life Righting Collective.
  • Signed up for a writing residency at Studio Faire in France in June/July and booked my tickets!

I’m hoping that this will be a year of happy creation, and I’m wishing anyone who reads this the same!

10 tips on marriage

Yesterday my husband and I celebrated ten months married. When you read that you might be laughing at the fact that I’m dishing out advice like a seasoned married person – don’t worry, I’m laughing with you.

Last month I had the honour of being asked to speak at my uncle’s wedding. He asked me to write something from the heart for him and his future husband, and so I put my mind to the past few months of my own life and tried to be honest about what I had learned. Disclaimer – this could all be wrong. Except for the bit about the psychic.

First – here is a picture of the happy couple ❤

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Brayden and Andy (Mr and Mr Slezak)

1: Your partner is not, except on rare lucky occasions, a psychic

This means you need to learn to explain what you need, rather than assume that your partner knows just because they love you. (Thanks Alain de Botton for this bit of advice, by the way).

2: Love is a second chance

Love is a chance to be the very best version of yourself. To amplify the goodness and kindness in you, and share that with another person. Marriage allows you to do this for the rest of your life. That being said…

3: Nobody is perfect

At our wedding, Sam’s cousin Kevin gave us some very valuable advice. He said

“You choose your partner not because they are perfect, but because they are perfect for you. There is a big difference. They have what life wants and needs to teach you. Some lessons are hard, especially the ones that deal with your ego and insecurities…Marriage will bring out the best in you, it will also bring out the worst. No one will make you happier, and no one will be as proficient at pressing the wrong buttons as your partner.”

4: You must own up

See 3 (above) – nobody is perfect. At a friend’s wedding a few years ago the pastor said there are two phrases that are essential to make a marriage work. The first – I love you. The second – I’m sorry, I was wrong, please forgive me. Hopefully, you get to say the first more than the second, but just in case I’d suggest practising in the mirror.

5: Be honest – to yourself and to your partner

Love and marriage require you to be incredibly vulnerable – to acknowledge that there are parts of you that sometimes feel unlovable and to ask another to love them. This is an act of radical bravery.

6: Don’t worry about how anyone else does ‘being married’

Love is not a competition. There are no marriage Olympics. Your marriage doesn’t have to look a certain way to be good. It has to meet your specific needs as a couple. Love is not in grand gestures – though they can be very nice – it’s in the little things that only the two of you notice. Treasure those.

7: You are not alone

Though the wedding day is a day about just you two, if you look around you’ll notice that everyone at your ceremony is there because they love you, both separately and in your togetherness. This is your support system, and they are not only there for the wedding day.

8: Marriage is not just the wedding

I know that at the wedding you feel like your hearts might explode with love, but amazingly there is still room for more. More love and more happiness. Put as much effort and thought into each day of your marriage as you have into today.

9: Write down your vows

Keep them somewhere special so that you can look at them often. Remember what you’ve promised, and keep your promises.

10: Marriage is magic

Always feel grateful that in the world of billions of people, you found each other and chose each other. Enjoy the adventure and never forget how lucky and wonderful it is to love and be loved.

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Total babes ❤

South Africa hates women – are you fine with that?

This morning I’m sitting with a heavy heart.

The past years months weeks have been full of news that would make even the unobservant reader realise that South Africa is not a country for women. On paper we are equal. Yet, in the day to day, we are living with the constant threat that we will become the victim of violence if we have not already become one.

I don’t believe we’re hearing more about this just because it’s women’s month, and if women’s month is just an opportunity for everyone to remind us of how truly traumatic and tiring it is to be a woman in this country then I’d really like us to forget about women’s month altogether.

As a society at large, South Africa is fine with women’s suffering.

In the past 24 hours, three stories that would have other countries starting commissions of enquiry and plugging resources into social crime prevention will simply disappear by the end of the week amidst the many other stories of violence against women. I don’t want these stories to disappear.

One – almost half of Khayelitsha school learners have experienced sexual violence and girls were more likely than boys to report abuse. Two – a young woman who reported her rape to Rhodes University committed suicide before returning to campus for further discussions following her report of the rape on July 30th. The alleged rapist was only suspended this morning according to a press release sent by the university. Three – police charge protestors raising awareness about violence against women because they demanded that the President of the country they live survive in listen to them and their demands.

To be born a girl in this country and make it to your old age unharmed is a statistical improbability. The definition of female might as well be ‘afraid.’

Are you fine with this? I can’t be.

So what are we going to do about it?

 

 

 

 

Feminism Is at the Open Book Festival 2018

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This year’s Open Book Festival in Cape Town has, as usual, an amazing line up of writers and public intellectuals coming together to talk about literature, politics, and many other things. The festival takes place from 5 – 9 September in Cape Town.

This year the Open Book Festival team has given amazing support to Feminism Is, and has five events scheduled around the book, as well as many others with a feminist focus.

5 September
20.00 – 21.00 Feminism Is: Pumla Gqola, Dela Gwala and Thembekile Mahlaba explore their journeys to feminism and answer FAQs in the company of Sara-Jayne King Fugard Studio

GET TICKETS

6 September
16.00 – 17.30 Feminism Is: Listening Room: We invite all persons of trans experience and/or those who identify as women/womxn to share personal experiences that shape their feminist identities in a safe and respectful space. Please keep contributions to a maximum of 5 minutes to allow as many voices to be heard as possible. Hosted by Joy Watson with contributions from Janine Adams, Kit Beukes, Michelle Hattingh and Ming-Cheau Lin and Tshepiso Mashinini. Fugard Studio

RSVP

7 September
14.00 – 15.00 Feminism Is: Body Politics: Anna Dahlqvist, Melanie Judge and Tlaleng Mofokeng speak to Joy Watson about taking control in the context of patriarchy Fugard Theatre

GET TICKETS

7 September
18.00 – 19.00 Feminism Is: Talking Feminism: B Camminga, Helen Moffett and Tlaleng Mofokeng explore divisions and how they can stand in the way of feminist conversations in the company of Yaliwe Clarke Fugard Theatre

GET TICKETS

9 September
12.00 – 13.00 Feminism Is: Reflections: Jen Thorpe wraps up the series of ‘Feminism Is’ events and asks Pumla Gqola, Haji Mohamed Dawjee and Nwabisa Mda to share their thoughts on SA feminism today Fugard Theatre

GET TICKETS

Check out the full programme here for more details on other amazing feminist events.

Nasty Women Talk Back: Feminist Essays on the Global Women’s Marches

Following incredible marches all over South Africa this month I’m excited to let you know that I have an essay in a forthcoming collection – Nasty Women Talk Back: Feminist Essays on the Global Women’s Marches edited by Joy Watson and Amanda Gouws.

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The collection will launch at the Open Book Festival on 6 September at 8pm at the Fugard. Get tickets here